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How an Architect Remodeled a 14th-Century Convent Right into a House

How an Architect Remodeled a 14th-Century Convent Right into a House


A number of years of residing in a smooth if nondescript penthouse within the coronary heart of Bologna, Italy, left architect Laura Gasparini and her household wanting a house with extra room and character. Their 1,600-square-foot condominium was enough for on a regular basis life, however Gasparini says she, her husband, Maurizio, and their son, Rocco, “wanted more room and a extra prestigious home for receiving friends.” 

Although her work is decidedly modern, Gasparini has at all times been drawn to older buildings. So when she and Maurizio began researching properties round Bologna, historic properties made the highest of the listing. “I like fashionable buildings, however they should be particular,” she explains. “They don’t at all times transmit the identical feelings as historic ones.” 

After viewing a handful of choices, Gasparini was struck by the quiet grandeur of the constructing that may turn into her household’s residence. Situated within the metropolis’s Santo Stefano district—a sublime residential space simply southeast of Bologna’s core—the previous convent dated again to the 1300s. Attribute of many buildings within the neighborhood named for a close-by basilica, the construction had undergone a collection of renovations and reuses through the years, together with a stint within the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s when it served as a shared gymnasium for quite a lot of native faculties. 

Gothic arches—seen on the exterior and below, in the ground floor’s dramatic corridor—reveal the home’s ecclesiastical origin.

Gothic arches—seen on the outside and under, within the floor ground’s dramatic hall—reveal the house’s ecclesiastical origin.

Fabrizio Cicconi

Seven centuries of damage and tear had been evident within the constructing’s crumbling brick and weakened structural parts, in addition to an total datedness that made it incompatible with fashionable life. Whereas different patrons may need shied away from such a big and complicated venture, the Gasparinis noticed a possibility. 

“We had been fascinated by the solemnity of the areas and the ornament of the Gothic facades,” she says. 

However all that potential got here with restrictions. “In Italy, if you make modifications [to] historic buildings, it implies that each small intervention, each inside and exterior, should be analyzed by a particular fee,” the designer explains. “These guidelines clearly turn into limits within the intervention, however they serve to guard the fantastic thing about these buildings.” 

A hallway inside the home.

A hallway inside the house.

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And Gasparini was fantastic with these constraints. “We understood that my design, though modern and appropriate for the lifetime of a household, must have as its goal the utmost respect for the [building’s] structure and historical past,” she says. 

Conservation legislation required her to take care of as a lot of the unique construction as potential, together with its footprint and facade, which means she couldn’t increase. Happily, at 5,400 sq. ft, the constructing was sizable sufficient for her household’s wants, with ample area for entertaining. And it helped that there have been loads of authentic particulars to rejoice, together with the big 14th-century home windows, 26-foot-tall ceilings, and dramatic inside arches—parts that impressed her to pursue a particular aesthetic route. “I had in thoughts a Gothic loft,” she says. “I wished to create a kind of stage set with seen sections that may mix, with out an excessive amount of problem, historic structure with modern style.” 

The 26-foot-tall ceilings provide ample room for oversize artwork—such as this Marcus Harvey portrait of Winston Churchill—and the grand metal staircase.

The 26-foot-tall ceilings present ample room for oversize paintings—akin to this Marcus Harvey portrait of Winston Churchill—and the grand metallic staircase.

Fabrizio Cicconi

Gasparini organized the C-shaped structure so that the majority of its personal areas (the first suite, a visitor suite, and her workplace) had been close to the doorway. This meant these invited into the general public areas, on the rear of the house, may look in a single route and revel in views of the property’s inside courtyard, then flip round and see its leafy yard. 

I like fashionable buildings, however they should be particular. They don’t at all times transmit the identical feelings as historic ones.

To create these sight traces—and showcase the unique home windows, which run from the flooring to just about the highest of the towering ceilings—Gasparini took down a number of partitions. “I didn’t need interruptions or obstacles that would impede a transparent view from the doorway to the final department within the backyard,” she says. 

She plastered the remaining partitions and put in polished Brazilian slate flooring all through. The supplies’ impartial, earthy tones add dimension with out distracting and supply a unifying backdrop for furnishings and artwork. 

The owners paired a custom beechwood kitchen table with a trio of Carl Hansen Wishbone chairs.

The house owners paired a customized beechwood kitchen desk with a trio of Carl Hansen Wishbone chairs.

Fabrizio Cicconi

Within the entrance corridor, which Gasparini says is among the oldest elements of the house, an vintage iron gate recovered from an Italian nation villa acts as a portal between the vestibule and a protracted hall resulting in the lounge. “The thought it gave me,” she explains, “was the anticipation of discovering one thing fairy story–like inside.” 

The area results in a central hall with views onto the courtyard. It’s planted with palm timber to “recall the previous riads of Marrakech,” the architect says. The living-room decor was designed for lounging, with two giant, low sofas dealing with a espresso desk wrapped in black leather-based (all designed by Gasparini) at its coronary heart. “The furnishings is characterised by geometric, linear figures,” she says. “The items had been designed on a bigger scale than regular, to play with the large volumes of the constructing.” 

An iron gate separates the vestibule from the foyer, which is dominated by a large ottoman and an unframed photograph by Leonardo Casali.

An iron gate separates the vestibule from the lobby, which is dominated by a big ottoman and an unframed {photograph} by Leonardo Casali.

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The brand new gadgets are balanced with classic finds, together with a classical-style sculpture of a head and a pair of curved-back Ethiopian chairs bought in Paris. Reverse the principle sitting space is an authentic glass-and-metal desk that Warren Platner designed for Knoll, together with 4 of his matching chairs upholstered in a wealthy aubergine velvet. “These are among the few items not designed by me,” Gasparini says. “I’ve at all times been into design icons, and Northern European designs from the ’30s via the ’50s are a ardour of mine.” As a result of she wished to maintain the give attention to the unique high-flying architectural particulars, Gasparini capped the peak of all furnishings in the principle areas of the house at 31 inches. The one ingredient that competes with the home windows is a showstopping helical staircase crafted from micro-perforated sheet metallic, which ends up in Rocco’s mezzanine-level bed room and toilet. 

Nearly every space, including the bathrooms, uses the same plaster and Brazilian slate flooring for continuity.

Practically each area, together with the bogs, makes use of the identical plaster and Brazilian slate flooring for continuity.

Fabrizio Cicconi

Even the newly constructed areas reference town’s cultural historical past. Within the galley-like kitchen, a barrel-vaulted ceiling provides a delicate nod to the porticoes that run alongside lots of Bologna’s buildings, that are so architecturally vital that the United Nations added all 35 miles of them to its World Heritage Map in 2021. Wooden cabinetry painted matte black is topped with stainless-steel counters, and Gasparini commissioned a big beechwood desk as a gathering spot the place the household enjoys informal meals in a trio of traditional Carl Hansen & Søn CH24 Wishbone chairs. Flooring-to-ceiling doorways at one finish open out onto the plush backyard, planted with jasmine and a bamboo wall that borders the yard for privateness. “A small backyard within the coronary heart of town was a dream and a uncommon factor to seek out,” Gasparini says. 

The bedrooms proceed the house’s moody magnificence with shades of grey, layered textiles, and lengthy rows of darkish linen curtains that convey softness to the plaster partitions and angular furnishings. In Rocco’s suite, a trough-style sink of polished stone sits on an oblong iron base; paired with a easy wall-mounted Vola faucet, it exhibits Gasparini’s eye for element and skill to mix supplies in considerate ways in which nonetheless make a press release. 

Gasparini has designed everything from private homes to a boutique in London’s Old Burlington Arcade

Gasparini has designed every part from personal properties to a boutique in London’s Previous Burlington Arcade.

Fabrizio Cicconi

Elsewhere, artwork and antiques combine with modern furnishings (each customized and off-the-shelf) for, because the designer describes it, an “eclectic environment the place many themes and supplies come collectively.” Gasparini admits that whereas the development part is full, the home stays a bit like a lab for her design work, which is “consistently evolving.” However at the same time as she replaces furnishings or experiments with colour mixtures, she by no means forgets what attracted her to the constructing at first look. “My favourite place is the nook on the finish of the black couch in the lounge,” she says. “Within the night, from this place, there may be essentially the most thrilling view of the home as a result of it permits me to see the whole room as much as the doorway, the illuminated backyard, and the traditional facades of the constructing.” 


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